Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

BACK ON TRACK: Vickers Lands a Full-Time Gig at MWR

By Amanda Ebersole – Confirming the rumors, Michael Waltrip Racing has announced that Brian Vickers will return to the 55 team on a full-time basis.

While the driver was not a well kept secret when MWR sent out a media invite yesterday with Vickers on it, the part that came as a shock to the gathered crowd of media members and NASCAR Hall of Fame visitors was Aaron’s new level of commitment to the 55. Funding a full 36 race schedule, Aaron’s signed back on board with Waltrip’s team for another two years, continuing their partnership that dates back to 2000 when Waltrip began the team as a Nationwide team based out of his backyard.

Asked if Vicker’s win secured the full-time status with the team, Aaron’s CEO Ron Allen stated, “It wasn’t necessary for him to win that race at Loudon, but it didn’t hurt.”

It’s been a long road back to the top for Vickers, who last had a full-time ride in 2011 with Red Bull Racing. You may remember that his 2010 season ended after his 11 races due to a diagnosis of blood clots in one of his legs and lungs. Asked about his road back to NASCAR following his medical path, Vickers said that his parents instilled a never give up attitude on both he and his sister. Now, three years later, his persistence has paid off and brought him full circle.

Picked up by Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012, Vickers and Mark Martin have shared the driving duties of the No. 55 in what can be labeled as a successful mission for both drivers. As Waltrip sat on stage discussing the future of the team, he made sure to credit Martin for their success. “We wouldn’t be sitting here today without Mark Martin.” Per Waltrip, he joked that he is glad that Martin will not be there to clean up after him and make him dress better. Vickers joked, “I couldn’t look at your collar any longer,” to which Waltrip replied, “maybe not!” Expect to see Waltrip and Vickers in Aaron’s ads continuing the humor.

The success of the shared ride the past few seasons can largely be attributed to Crew Chief Rodney Childers, who Waltrip said he is close to re-signing for 2014 and beyond.

What happens to Martin now? At 54-years-old, the open seat options are slim but the 40 time race winner is bound to find a new ride sooner rather than later.

 

Let’s Talk About This…

facebook-logo-site

EMAIL AMANDA AT amanda.ebersole@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @AmandaEbersole

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

POWER RANKINGS: The Fast Fifteen

By Matt Weaver – Charlotte, NC: With a win at Watkins Glen on Sunday, Kyle Busch officially set his sights on the Sprint Cup championship and moved up the Fast 15 Power Rankings. Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Dillon also moved up after strong runs on Saturday in the Nationwide Series. The updated rankings can be found below.

1. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1)

Even on a day where the No. 48 team didn’t unload fast off the hauler, Johnson and crew still managed to finish eighth.  That’s the difference between simply making the Chase and having the capacity to win championships.

2. Clint Bowyer (LW: 6)

The MWR ace is quietly having a consistent and competitive season, contending on a variety of different tracks. He’s due for a win and could get to victory lane with some of his better venues coming up on the schedule.

3. Kyle Busch (LW: 12)

A win at Watkins Glen on Sunday was a final confirmation that Kyle Busch has the capacity to compete for a championship this season. He’s won at a two-mile superspeedway, an intermediate track and a road course. Busch also remains one of the best short trackers in the garage. Is this the year where he finally captures the Sprint Cup?

4. Brad Keselowski (LW: 7)

Back-to-back wins in the Nationwide Series has translated to success at the Sprint Cup level. The top-6 finishes in the past four weeks, including a runner-up on Sunday has put him back in the top-10 of the championship standings.

5. Carl Edwards (LW: 15)

There’s nothing fancy about how he’s doing it but Carl Edwards is continuing to reel off top-10s on the way to locking himself into the Chase — a lot like his contending season of 2011. He has just one win thus far but that hasn’t stopped him from challenging for the championship in years past.

6. Kurt Busch (LW: 10)

Just two points outside of the top-10, Kurt Busch just won’t go away and that could benefit him should he make the Chase for the Championship.

7. Kasey Kahne (LW: 2)

The unfortunate casualty of the Matt Kenseth/Marcos Ambrose accident on Sunday, Kasey Khane fell outside of the top-10 to 12th. He has two wins to put towards a wild card berth but he’d rather cash those in for bonus points.

8. Sam Hornish Jr. (LW: 11)

Watkins Glen was yet another race where Sam Hornish Jr. ran second to one of his Sprint Cup Series teammates in a Nationwide Series race. That’s three times in four races, amounting to 12 championship points lost to a non-contending teammate. Is Team Penske costing their driver a shot at the championship?

9. Kevin Harvick (LW: 13)

Despite his win at The Glen in 2007, Harvick has seldom put together consecutive strong results at the New York road course. He battled to a 13th place finish on Sunday which is fittingly his career average at the track.

10. Austin Dillon (LW: NR)

It was a good week for the elder Dillon brother. Austin held on to the Nationwide Series championship lead despite his lack of comfort on the road course at Watkins Glen and was announced as the driver of the No. 14 Sprint Cup car at Michigan.

11. Juan Pablo Montoya (LW: NR)

JPM picked up his third top-five of 2013, the most he’s had in a season since 6 of them in 2010. He’s on pace to match that — in a contract year conveniently enough.

12. Matt Kenseth (LW: 9)

The 2003 champion is solidly in line to make the Chase. Thus he’s more concerned with wins over that of consistency. So while Sunday’s accident with Ambrose is no big deal in the grand scheme, it’s still unfortunate for him to have triggered an accident that could have Chase implications.

13. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 4)

NASCAR’s most popular driver has never excelled on road courses but he’s become a solid bet for a top-10 in recent seasons. That makes getting caught up in an accident on Sunday all the more disheartening. His playoff security could use a win over the next few weeks but he’s not desperate for them either.

14. Joey Logano (LW: NR)

Trying to explain Joey Logano’s season is harder than understanding quantum physics. The No. 22 team has been fast but stricken with tons of bad luck. He has 11 top-10s (just as many as Carl Edwards) but four finishes worse than 35th. Some consistency and good luck is in order.

15. Jeff Gordon (LW: 8)

The hit-or-miss season continued for the four-time champion on Sunday at Watkins Glen. But when Gordon misses, he really misses, crashing hard on lap 14 and finishing 36th. He fell out of the top-10 as a result and is in the same position he found himself in a year ago where he rallied his way into the Chase during the final four races of the regular season.

Let’s Talk About This: 

facebook-logo-site

EMAIL MATT AT: matt.weaver@popularspeed.com
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN
LIKE ON FACEBOOK: 

The opinions and thoughts expressed herein are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Popular Speed, LLC, Mike Calinoff, LLC, their affiliates and ancillary associations. All images and text that are available on this website are copyright of Popular Speed, LLC. Any reproduction or redistribution is expressly prohibited by law, and may result in civil and criminal penalties. Offenders will be prosecuted to the maximum extent available.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

What You Can Expect with the Unfortunate Demise of SPEED

By @nascarcasm

– The popular “RaceHub” will continue to air on Fox Sports 1, but no word on if it’ll air during the day against soap operas, or late at night, up against Brazilian Butt Lift infomercials.

– Fox Sports 1 will take a cue from one of Speed’s more popular programs, and title their weekly Major League Baseball show, “Dumbest Stuff On PEDs.”

– A huge void will exist for automotive lifestyle programming, as car enthusiasts who were fans of “Pinks” or “Pass Time” will have to settle for dashboard-camera footage of high-speed car chases on “Cops.”

– NCWTS reporter Ray Dunlap will be re-assigned to English Premiere League soccer, where he’ll attempt to get angry soccer players to say “THIS IS BOLLOCKS!” on air.

– Fox Sports 1 will heavily cross-promote its many sports offerings, starting with the auctioning of several Johnny Manziel-signed items at the next Barrett-Jackson event.

– Employees cleaning out closets will make a gruesome discovery of a box that contains several deceased woodland mammals. Jimmy Spencer will then come by and thank them for finding his hairpieces.

– For the time being, Robin Miller will have to go door to door to series directors’ homes to tell them how much he hates them.

– A farewell bonfire, where all the truly talented, hard-working Speed employees who worked tirelessly to bring us informative coverage of a vast array of motorsports over the year will say their goodbyes around a smoldering pile of the master copies of all “Hard Parts: South Bronx” episodes.

 

EMAIL NASCARCASM AT nascarcasm@gmail.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @nascarcasm

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Austin Dillon in for Tony Stewart at MIS

The carousel at Stewart-Haas Racing will continue this weekend as Nationwide Series championship leader Austin Dillon will be the next driver to pilot the No. 14 Chevrolet as Tony Stewart continues to recover from his broken right leg.

Raod course ace Max Papis drove the car at Watkins Glen and Dillon will get the nod this weekend after finishing 11th in the Circle Sport Cup entry in June. Beyond that, Dillon was an easy selection because of his relationship with Bass Pro Shops, which sponsors both Dillon in Nationwide and Stewart in Cup.

A replacement driver beyond Michigan has not been selected.

A complicating circumstance surrounding Dillon’s selection is that he is also scheduled to compete in the Nationwide Series on Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The logistics of finding adequate seat time at both tracks will be a challenge but Dillon believes they have it figured out.

“The good thing about Mid-Ohio is that we have a full test day there on Thursday, so we’ll have plenty of time on the track,” Dillon said. “We have a lot of tire sets, and we’re going to use them up on Thursday.

“But qualifying seems to be the issue for Nationwide — that is the only part that will be tough.  We may have to start in the rear.”

Dillon added that he doesn’t think the track difference between Michigan and Mid-Ohio will compromise his Nationwide Series championship hopes. In fact, he says that his Michigan selection was ideal because the two-mile speedway is one of his favorites on the schedule.

“Michigan was the best place to do it on the Cup side because I have a lot of laps and confidence there,” Dillon said. “So we’re going to do our best to come up with a good strategy for both races.  I think we’ll be just fine.”

Dillon leads the Nationwide standings by three points over Sam Hornish Jr. and five over Regan Smith.

Stewart-Haas Competition Director Greg Zipadelli says the door is open for Dillon to run additional races in the No. 14 car. Equally helpful is the recent rule change that allows a rookie to run unlimited number of Cup races without burning his rookie of the year eligibility as long as he is designated for the Nationwide Series — and Dillon is.

“We just kind of want to get through this week here and then plan ahead,” Zipadelli said. “Like I said, things are a little slow and we’ve got a little bit more time this week.  We’ll be able to plan weeks out once we get this Michigan stuff done.”

Let’s Talk About This…

facebook-logo-site

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

The Demise of Road Course Aces

By Vito Pugliese – The second of the two road course races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule was completed today at the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. While Marcos Ambrose came up short (as a result of his wreck) in his bid to tie Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon as the only three-time consecutive winners at The Glen, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski were the story in the final laps, just as they were last year. One other constant was reinforced today as well: The dwindling influence of the road course ringer. There once was a time when twice a year, those from another racing discipline could show up for the weekend, have their seat fitted, and go out and teach the left-turn only guys a thing or two about apexes, trail braking, and heel-and-toeing. For the past few years though, their impact on the sport has been diminished substantially.

This year at Watkins Glen, Carl Edwards put his No. 99 Kellogg’s Cheez-It Roush Fenway Ford on the pole, Martin Truex, Jr. paced practice, and Kyle Busch won the race. The highest finishing “ringer” was Max Papis in 15th, subbing for the injured Tony Stewart – and that position was acquired in part due to a late race wreck involving Marcos Ambrose who dominated the first half of the event, and Brian Vickers in the No. 55 MWR Toyota. The next highest finishing road course specialists? Boris Said in 22nd, Australian Owen Kelly in 24th, Alex Kennedy in 27th, and Ron Fellows in 35th. Fellows was involved in an accident on lap 39 that also included Grand Am Rolex Series driver Tomy Drissi, and Victor Dominguez, Jr. who has also competed in Touring Car, Grand Am, and a handful of Nationwide Series starts, primarily on road courses.

Looking back at some prior races, things looked markedly different. In 2002 at Watkins Glen, P.J. Jones finished fourth, Scott Pruett sixth, and Boris Said 13th. In 2003, Pruett finished second to winner Robby Gordon at the Glen. Similar scenarios and results hold true as well at Sonoma. The only real outliers here would be Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose, who combined have won four Cup Series Road Course races since 2007, however they are also full-time drivers in the series and simply have a road racing background.

So why are these road race Aces suddenly looking like Jokers when the Cup Series shows up in their arena twice a year? The answer goes beyond the Cup regulars being Jacks of all trades.

As it’s been said several times before, these are the best drivers in the world. Sure the Formula One fans would argue differently, but JPM hasn’t exactly lit up the stat sheet in the Cup Series, and even Kimi Raikkonen only stayed around long enough to run one Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte. The level of talent that the Spring Cup Series regulars bring to the table now is elevated well above where it was even five or ten years ago. Many are recruited to participate in endurance racing regularly now. Witness A.J. Allmendinger’s win with Michael Shank Racing at Daytona in 2012, Juan Pablo Montoya’s three wins with Chip Ganassi’s team in the 24 Hour race. Brian Vickers has competed in the 24 Hours of LeMans, while Jimmie Johnson has competed with the GAINSCO Sun Trust team at the 24 Hours of Daytona.

The equipment used today is far superior to what once would be acceptable for a car set up to turn left and right. It used to be a team would take their Martinsville car, put the filler neck on the right side for Watkins Glen, and hope the driver wouldn’t cook the brakes or break the transmission. Now teams have dedicated road course cars, with brakes that can withstand a pounding all race long, transmissions that don’t require much finesse, increased downforce and reliability, and since the advent of the CoT, a much more hearty and durable machine that can take a beating. Drivers themselves have been getting more involved. While Boris Said and Max Papis have taught half the field the nuances of road racing, others have attended schools such as Skip Barber and Bob Bondurant, in an effort to make themselves more competitive and competent.

The teams as well have taken more of an involvement in the development of cars engineered for road racing, by bringing on engineering talent from other road course based series, as well as technology transfers from their respective manufacturers. In the mid-1990s, Roush Racing’s Trans-Am program helped provide some direction for their Cup program, which saw Mark Martin win three consecutive races at Watkins Glen from 1993-1995, as well as Sonoma in 1997. Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham took things to a new level when they won three in a row at The Glen from 1997-1999, as well as at Sonoma in 1998-2000. These two organizations helped cast the die that raised road racing to an art form, and not the twice a year oddity that some ascribed to it.

Why this sudden acceptance and renaissance and rush to embrace the road race? Since The Chase points system was instituted in 2004, it made the first 26 races of the year take on an importance all their own. What used to be a couple of throw-away-hope-for-the-best races, might make the difference between squeaking into the Top 12, or lamenting one’s lot in life after the September Richmond race.

Which brings up another point. If road course races make up almost 10% of the regular season schedule, why isn’t there one in The Chase? The last couple of seasons, the action on the road courses has arguably been some of the best we’ve seen. Think of them as the new short racks on the schedule, both in the Sprint Cup Series and on the Nationwide side. Last year’s last lap duel between Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose was one of the best finishes in the history of the sport. Four lead changes on the last lap?

If NASCAR is looking for that Game Seven moment during The Chase, look no further.

In fact, Watkins Glen would make a great back drop for a Chase Race date in early October. The fiery backdrop of the changing autumn foliage would look fantastic on television – although the teams might want to affix deer whistles to the nose. It’s typically not a soggy season, and snow isn’t really a threat, and as any college football fan will tell you, nothing’s better than an afternoon of tailgating in a hooded sweatshirt in a parking lot, and not getting sunburned, heat stroke, or ate up by mosquitoes. If today’s throng which was lined up and down US-15 to get into the track this morning, and to waive at the team haulers as they exited. With Chase race emphasis and importance, I believe there would likely be less ringers in the field, as teams would depend on the drivers they’ve hired for the whole year to become proficient at road course racing.

Think about it – a driver like Marcos Ambrose (who had today’s race in hand early on) can knock out a road course win in the regular season, and slide into the Top 12 by Richmond, it suddenly makes them a championship threat come Chase time. Talk about the true definition of a “wild card”.

As speeds continue to increase and passing becoming more difficult to execute on the intermediate tracks (which are now posting super-speedway type MPH numbers), adding another road course into the mix might make for an interesting solution. NASCAR is working to help find a solution to increase viewership and create some more buzz around The Chase, which is in full swing just as the NFL is getting going. Adding in a track with a twist that’s only a few hours from the media hub that is New York City might make more sense than the current schedule has provided.

 

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Decisions, Decisions: Keselowski Opts for Points Payoff

By Kristen Schneider – Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. That’s the saying Brad Keselowski is loathing after Sunday’s stop at Watkins Glen. For the third year in a row, the Blue Deuce has finished second at the road course, though not from a lack of trying.

Racing is an evil mistress, and sometimes the driver who tries the hardest doesn’t win. But how hard was he really trying?

Let me explain.

At this point last year, the No. 2’s Chase appearance was already settled. It was a certainty, one that helped Keselowski feel less pressure. This resulted in the memorable finish between him and Marcos Ambrose, a ‘run-the-car-until-it-gives-out’ moment that went down as The Best Finish of The 2012 Season.

What we saw Sunday was similar to that moment but subdued. What gives?

It seems that this is the year of preservation; the points are vital, which means the drivers will race that way. Of course it will change with circumstances, but the concept holds water. Sunday was the perfect example.

Keselowski could have wrecked Kyle Busch for the win in any of those turns, but he didn’t. That’s a combination of maturity and intelligence. When the two were racing on the final lap, and the cars inched closer and closer together, last year’s champion most likely thought: “Do I wreck him and risk getting caught up in it? Or do I let him go and reap the benefits of a great points day?”

No wins and team growing pains placed him in that awkward, tempting position, and he resisted. That is something that should be applauded. Now, how can he avoid this instance so he can go all out next time?

The main key is preparation. Keselowski should make winning the Cup series race at Watkins Glen a goal, if not THE goal of next year. Then, him and the entire team should work on their performance during the first part of the season. He needs to run flawlessly, enabling him to have a cushion in the points to take those risks for wins.

Even the champion needs a bit of help, right?

Let’s give him some credit. His performance this year is quite impressive when you consider the manufacturer change and the new car. Crew chief Paul Wolfe’s notebook was emptier than everyone else’s, and the team was at Square One. New manufacturer usually means mechanical failures and trials with many tribulations, but they have faired decently.

Also, with being last year’s champion, there is a lot of pressure. Others would follow up with a terrible excuse for a season, but not this champ. If there is one word to describe this vocal driver, it has to be ‘effort.’ He’s never given up, and he wouldn’t dare to start now.

But, even as hard as Keselowski tries, restraint is needed when looking at the big picture. Sometimes, that results in coming up short. With a bit of preplanning and goal-orientation, he can finally be the bride he wants -and deserves- to be.

Let’s Talk About This…

facebook-logo-site

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

The Stories Behind the Story: Watkins Glen

By Matt Weaver – Kyle Busch won the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen on Sunday afternoon but did so only after the usual twist and turns (literal and metaphorical) that you would expect out of Watkins Glen International.

For much of the afternoon, it looked as if Marcos Ambrose was going to win a third-consecutive race at the high-speed road course located in midwestern New York State. But a caution on lap 60 forced Ambrose to pit after many of his rivals had already stopped prior to the caution and he was unable to work his way back through the field.

In clean air, Busch was able to fend off Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski on the final three restarts and survived to score his second victory at The Glen and just his third on a Sprint Cup Series road course. Here are the major story lines:

Kyle Busch victory establishes Chase momentum

Kyle Busch has had near-victories escape him in his two prior starts at Watkins Glen International and it likely cost him a Chase berth last season. By finally reaching victory lane on Sunday, Kyle Busch joins Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson as the primary title contenders of 2013.

Busch has really come on strong in recent months, scoring top-10s in five-of-his-last-six races. With just four races until the Chase, Busch has racked up three wins and runs fifth in the standings. He appears set to be able to cash in those wins for bonus points once the playoffs begin.

Most impressive is that he has won on three different tracks in Fontana (two-mile speedway), Texas (1.5-mile intermediate) and the Glen. He remains a threat on short tracks and could conceivably win anywhere once the Chase begins. Many expected Busch to have won at least one championship by now (the best he’s finished is fifth) but 2013 appears to be his best shot at capturing the crown.

Ambrose denied three-peat

Marcos Ambrose was poised to win at The Glen but his day went from bad-to-worse when his car, trapped mid-pack after his final pit stop, was caught-up in a multi-car accident on lap 81. Ambrose had said over the radio that something felt wrong on the car and he just couldn’t get up to speed on the lap 80 restart.

Replays showed that he was tagged from behind by Matt Kenseth and Ambrose lost control, getting into Kasey Kahne and ultimately collected Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Alex Kennedy and David Ragan.

“I just couldn’t get going on the restart,” Ambrose said. “I thought something was wrong. I was talking to the guys on the radio and we decided to stay out there just to see if it was going to be drivable — but it wasn’t. I was in the way heading up the hill and just got dumped.”

The accident is notable on a variety of levels as Ambrose is a free agent at the end of the year and could have used the win to raise his stock. And with the injury to Tony Stewart, a win at The Glen could have placed him closer to the top-20 and right back in the hunt for a wild card berth. Sunday all but eliminated him from title contention and questions about his job prospects can now be asked.

The end of the road course ringer era

Max Papis finished 15th on Sunday, replacing the injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet. Of note, he was the highest finishing road course ace hired to compete on the twisty in place of a Cup Series regular. A decade ago, a specialized ringer could take a car accustomed to running mid-pack and could have stolen a top-five at The Glen or Sonoma.

But that era appears to have reached its conclusion.

The truth is that every Sprint Cup Series driver is a road ringer now — at least to a certain extent.

The Cup Series garage has a more diverse background than it ever has before, including Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya and AJ Allmendinger, all drivers with extensive road course experience. Additionally, the NASCAR ladder system is full of road courses now, starting at the Pro Series and extending all the way up to ARCA and national touring.

Teams test on road courses regularly now and becoming adept at turning right and left is now a requirement to make it to the Cup Series, despite only two stops on the premier tour.

The Chase for the Championship has also placed an increased importance on road course racing as winning on them could be the key to contending for a wild card position. So the era of the road course ringer has officially come to an end, effective 2013.

——-

The race to the Chase is down to four and returns to a more traditional stop next week when the Sprint Cup Series stops at Michigan International Raceway.

Let’s Talk About This…

facebook-logo-site

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

WE NEED TO TALK: Post-Race at The Glen

Compiled by Staff – What do the top 10 finishers say after a race like the Cheez-It 355? While most drivers take time to thank their team, sponsors, etc. there are a few who reflect on the race and wish the results were different.

Kyle Busch – race winner, spoke about holding off Brad Keselowski on the final restart:

“I felt like our car was really, really good on the long run — we had a great car overall all day today — and on the short run it wouldn’t quite fire off on cold tires as good as I wanted it to. Took me a little bit to get it going and those last two laps it still wasn’t ready to go and Brad (Keselowski) was all over me there. Great job by this team — this whole M&M’s team — I appreciate their support. This Toyota Camry today — it deserved to be in victory lane the last couple years here, so this was ‘Rowdy’s’ revenge. I’m glad it’s back in victory lane today.”

Brad Keselowski – runner-up for the third consecutive year:

“We were strong, but we just weren’t quite strong enough.  We were definitely really close and we’ve been close over the last three years, but just came up a little bit short on the last lap on all three of them.  That stinks, but that’s racing.  We had a shot at it.  I was gonna have to wreck him to really get it and I didn’t want to do that.  I thought I could cross him over here on the last corner and the car just slid the back end a little too much and I just couldn’t quite pull off the move.  It was still a great run for the Miller Lite Ford Fusion.  It was just a really fast car and a solid weekend.”

Martin Truex Jr. – third place and highest finishing Toyota:

“All in all it was a good weekend. So much speed in practice and then today the weather was a little bit different and I knew the track would be a little bit different. We had so much speed on the short run and almost got the lead there and we messed up. After we put that last set of tires on we almost got the lead and after that just couldn’t quite run with him (Kyle Busch) after all of those restarts, all of those heat cycles in the tires. Both the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 18 (Kyle Busch) were just a tick better than we were on the longer runs and on the older, built-up air pressure. We just missed it a little bit. I’m so proud of my guys for the cars they built. Everybody back at the shop for the great race cars that they built for us here this weekend. A couple more to go — just have to keep chipping away at it.”

Carl Edwards – fourth place finisher and third in the NSCS points:

“I wish we raced here more than once a year.  This is a lot of fun.  It’s a great race track.  I pushed Brad the restart before that because I couldn’t get to the inside of him, but that restart a hole opened up and I went to the inside.  In hindsight, if I had known we were gonna finish fourth I’d have rather pushed a Ford up there to try to beat Kyle, but it was still a great race and a lot of fun.  I love racing here.  Kyle and Brad put on a heckuva show.  That was neat to watch.”

Juan Pablo Montoya – following a fifth place finish:

“It was fun it’s just not enough laps.  It’s hard to pass.  These cars, you know, guys that run up front are pretty good here.  Our Target Chevy was really good all day.  To be honest with you we didn’t think we could make it in two (pit stops) all weekend.  We got so many cautions and I felt, you know they told me to save and I started saving a ton of gas and even saving gas we were pretty good.”

Clint Bowyer – adorned in “Duck Dynasty” this weekend, Bowyer remains second in the points.

No comment available at press time.

Joey Logano – Coming into his own this season, Logano’s seventh place finish was his 11th top-10 of the season.

“Anytime you come to a road course you never know what’s gonna happen and obviously there are a lot more guys out there that had really fast race cars and got wrecked, so survival is always key to get through these things.  Our Shell/Pennzoil Ford was about where we finished.  I felt like our strategy worked out decent.  It wasn’t stellar, but we didn’t catch the cautions perfectly as some guys did.  I could have done a little better job on the restarts earlier in the race, but, overall, seventh out of a kind of crapshoot of a race track, you never know what’s gonna happen, so to get seventh and have a solid points day was important for our goal of getting in the Chase.  We’ll take this and try to win at Michigan.  We had a really fast car at Michigan the last time and I really want to win there.  I feel like if we can get a win, we have a really good shot at getting in this Chase.  If not, we did make up some valuable points today.”

Jimmie Johnson – securing a Chase berth, Johnson’s eighth place finish was enough to allow him and Chad Knaus to breathe a bit for the next four weeks.

No comment was available at press time.

Kurt Busch – big brother of race winner, Kyle Busch, Kurt spoke of his ninth place run:

“It wasn’t one of my best efforts.  I felt like I was just off rhythm but the team did their job and we had great execution on pit strategy and we were able to gain some track position then.  Everybody it seems like is fast.  I think there is a group of us though in the top 10 that broke away most of the day.  We were right on the tail end of that group.  So I got up as high as fifth and I just couldn’t clear (Clint) Bowyer.  I think if I could have cleared Bowyer I would have hung on to a top five, but we just got out muscled at the end.  I wasn’t quite on my ‘A’ game today.”

AJ Allmendinger – driving the No. 47 for JTG Daugherty and bringing home the first top-1o of 2013 for the team:

“I thought it was really good — I thought our car was solid. We just ran out of fuel. We just — I don’t know if we miscalculated the number or we just got a little short. The reading was a little bit shorter than we had the first run, so it was — the car was really good. It wasn’t quite as good as I hoped — I was fighting tight — but I thought we had a for sure top-four car. On the long run, the car was really good. It saved the rear tires. Don’t want to say we gave one way, but we gave a chance at one away. Glad a Toyota won at least though.”

Let’s Talk About This…

facebook-logo-site

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Holds off Brad to Win at The Glen

By Reid Spencer: WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Surviving a succession of restarts in the final 15 laps of Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International, Kyle Busch edged Brad Keselowski for the victory in a two-lap shootout.

Busch collected his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season, his second at the 2.45-mile road course and the 27th of his career–but nothing about it was easy.

Aric Almirola’s Ford nosed into a tire barrier after a blowing a tire on Lap 60 to cause a caution that interrupted a cycle of pit stops and knocked pole winner Marcos Ambrose out of the lead. Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Truex, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch had already made their final stops, and that quintet led the field to green on Lap 64.

Kyle Busch pulled away to a lead of more than two seconds before caution for debris slowed the field for the sixth time on Lap 77. The race restarted on Lap 81, with Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Truex and Bowyer in the top four spots.

Busch’s work, however, was far from over. After the restart, a wild wreck involving Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought out the seventh caution and required another restart on Lap 85.

Contact between Max Papis’ Chevrolet and Ambrose’s Ford ignited an accident on the restart lap, with Brian Vickers’ No. 55 Toyota also collected in the melee. Forced to lead the field to green for the third time in 15 laps, Busch got away on the restart and held off Keselowski in a battle that intensified on the final circuit.

A multicar wreck on Lap 40 oiled the track and stopped the race for more than 22 minutes. The cars of Ron Fellows and Travis Kvapil collided as the fought for position through the esses, and the ensuing accident also collected the cars of Victor Gonzalez Tomy Drissi and Landon Cassill.

After the red-flag period necessary for track clean-up, Ambrose led the field to the green for a restart on lap 43, with Kyle Busch second and Kevin Harvick – who hadn’t been to pit road since Lap 16–running third.

The wildly fluctuating fortunes of Jeff Gordon hit another low point at the Glen. Gordon pulled up behind Denny Hamlin’s Toyota as the cars climbed through the esses on Lap 14. Gordon’s Chevy twitched left into the Turn 4 guard rail, slid across the track and nosed into the barrier on the opposite side.

The four-time Cup champion lost 23 laps in the garage as his team repaired the car. Though Gordon returned to the track on Lap 37, he finished 36th and fell out of the top 10 in the series standings.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

RACEDAY: Who to Watch

A few of us late-night Popular Speeder’s were throwing some Who to Watch names in the ring. Here’s what we came up with…

No. 9 – Marcos Ambrose: Fast in practice, fast in qualifying and defending race winner. He’s a no-brainer.

No. 56 – Martin Truex, Jr: The winner at Sonoma is hungry for more. Having the newfound road course confidence and looking to try and solidify his Chase berth, Truex is worth tracking.

No. 18 – Kyle Busch: Took the green in the Nationwide race and made a right. Then he made another right – into the fence. He’s fast and aggravated about yesterday.

No. 39 – Ryan Newman: Where did he come from? Tell a guy he’s out of a job and he’ll show you! He’s on the fringe of a wildcard spot and would like nothing more than to wave the SHR flag to the Chase.

No. 78 – Kurt Busch: Quite possibly the hungriest guy today. With his road course prowess, eagerness to win for his team and being a Chase hopeful, look for him to pull out all the stops.

No. 1 – Jamie McMurray: He’s led the Ganassi team with speed for most of the season and recently been up front in the last few races. And he can wheel it on the road course with the best of them. He’s our dark horse pick for today.

No. 24 – Jeff Gordon: Although he’s starting deep in the field, we can expect some early pit strategy to get position. Last weeks disappointment at Pocono has weighed heavily on him and he’ll look for redemption. Put Jeff in a position to win at the end of this race and he’ll stop at nothing to gain those valuable points to make the Chase.